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Ghost Girl: A Blue Ridge Mountain Story

Overview

Eleven-year-old April Sloane has never set foot in a school before, and now that President Hoover and his wife are building a one-room schoolhouse in the hollow of the Blue Ridge Mountains where April lives, she is eager to attend it. But these are the Depression years, and Mama, who has been grieving ever since the accidental death of her seven-year-old son, wants April to stay home and do the chores around their dilapidated farm. With her grandmother's intercession, April is grudgingly allowed to go. The kind ...

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Overview

Eleven-year-old April Sloane has never set foot in a school before, and now that President Hoover and his wife are building a one-room schoolhouse in the hollow of the Blue Ridge Mountains where April lives, she is eager to attend it. But these are the Depression years, and Mama, who has been grieving ever since the accidental death of her seven-year-old son, wants April to stay home and do the chores around their dilapidated farm. With her grandmother's intercession, April is grudgingly allowed to go. The kind teacher encourages her apt pupil, who finds a new world opening up to her. But at home, April cannot repair the relationship with her mother, and worse, her mother overhears the dark secret April confesses to her teacher regarding the true cause of her brother's death, for which April feels responsible. The author has used her own experience growing up in a rural area of northern Virginia to create the vivid characters and authentic dialogue and background detail that characterize this finely honed debut novel. She has based the one-room schoolhouse on papers in the Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa, which include letters between the White House and the young teacher who taught at the school.

Eleven-year-old April is delighted when President and Mrs. Hoover build a school near her Madison County, Virginia, home but her family's poverty, grief over the accidental death of her brother, and other problems may mean that April can never learn to read from the wonderful teacher, Miss Vest.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Nothing is...predictable...April's coming-of-age...is poignant, realistic, and somber, and reflective of the strength April has found within." Horn Book, Starred

"Ray's loving attention to setting, character, and detail makes this debut special...based on real events and a real teacher." KIRKUS REVIEWS, starred review Kirkus Reviews, Starred

"Ray sensitively captures the atmospheric flavor...treat[s] her characters as real, complex people...A warm but not sentimental coming-of-age story." THE BULLETIN OF THE CENTER FOR CHILDREN'S BOOKS The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"excellent portrayal...rises to the top....seamlessly incorporates historical facts into the narrative...engaging character...first-rate purchase for all libraries." SCHOOL LIBRARY JOUNRAL, STARRED REVIEW School Library Journal, Starred

"fascinating historical detail...will haunt readers, especially since there's no patched-on happy solution to the poverty, anger and sorrow." BOOKLIST Booklist, ALA

Children's Literature
Ghost Girl is the nickname of an 11-year-old girl, April Sloane, who lives in a sparsely populated area of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Other children her age give April this nickname because of her light hair and extremely pale skin. Not until President Hoover builds a mountain home nearby does someone realize that the children in the area have no school to attend. Hoover builds the children a school and appoints Caroline Vest as the teacher. April's family has been going through a tough year trying to deal with the death of April's youngest and only brother. Because April has been holding back a secret about his death, she feels responsible. When the secret comes to light, her mother cannot stand to look at April any longer, and she sends her to live with Miss Vest. While this book is a work of historical fiction, President Hoover really did build this mountain school for the local children, and Caroline Vest was the actual teacher chosen to run it. This makes the story even better, since the author already does such a wonderful job of making readers feel like they are really there. It is obvious that Ray did her research to make the setting believable for readers. She tells a very interesting story about the hardships faced by a young girl and the teacher who is trying so hard to help her. Readers will find this Blue Ridge Mountain story difficult to put down. 2003, Clarion Books, Ages 9 to 12.
—Jenifer DeHart
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-April Sloane is called "ghost girl" because of her white-blonde hair and light eyes. She feels like a ghost because since the accidental death of her younger brother a year previously, her mother has fallen in to a deep depression and never seems to see her any more. The 11-year-old lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains and has never attended school, so when she learns that President Hoover and his wife are building one nearby, she is thrilled. However, her mother flatly refuses to let her go, until her grandmother, Aunt Birdy, intervenes. April is an eager student and loves her teacher, Miss Vest, but her mother soon pulls her out and rejects all appeals-from April, Aunt Birdy, and Miss Vest. Then, April's secret about her brother's death comes to light, resulting in a two-year estrangement between the girl and her parents, only somewhat healed when Aunt Birdy falls ill and dies. During those two years, April lives with Miss Vest and realizes that the future is waiting for her. There are many novels out about the lives of mountain children, but this excellent portrayal of four important years in a girl's life rises to the top. Based on a real school and teacher, this novel seamlessly incorporates historical facts into the narrative. April is an engaging character, always eager to learn but also struggling with her desire for her mother's approval. A first-rate purchase for all libraries.-Terrie Dorio, Santa Monica Public Library, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Eleven-year-old April Sloane lives an isolated life on Doubletop Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, so she doesn’t believe it when her friend Dewey Jessup claims to have met President Hoover at his new summer place down the mountain. But when the president starts a mountain school and hires Miss Vest as the new teacher, April’s world begins to expand. Miss Vest introduces her to such wonders as indoor plumbing, hot chocolate, marshmallows, reading, and the Sears, Roebuck catalogue. April gets to know Mrs. Hoover and even visits her at the White House. Though the outside world has its wonders, so does April’s mountain life, and with the help of Miss Vest, Aunt Birdy, and Mama, April finds her place in that world. Ray’s loving attention to setting, character, and detail makes this debut special, a quiet and subtle evocation of a time and a place based on real events and a real teacher. (author’s note) (Fiction. 10-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618333776
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 9/22/2003
  • Pages: 224
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 920L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Delia Ray's novel GHOST GIRL: A BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAIN STORY has been nominated on state lists in Oklahoma, Kansas, South Carolina, Missouri, Indiana, and New Hampshire. Ms. Ray is also the author of three young-adult nonfiction books about American history. Her latest novel, SINGING HANDS, is based on her mother's experiences growing up as a hearing child with deaf parents. Ms. Ray lives with her family in Iowa City, Iowa.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2008

    You will always be loved

    This book touched my heart. April is able to finally tell the truth and realiz it was an accident and not her fualt, with the help of her teacher and Birdy.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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